“From The Vault” consists of past 1-on-1 interviews and never-before-seen features on Washington Capitals and NHL players. Here’s Lars Eller.
For Washington Capitals center Lars Eller, hockey has always been a family affair.
Growing up in Rødovre, Denmark, “Tiger” spent the majority of his time at the ice rink. His father, Olaf, was a longtime player and coach. His younger brother, Mads, and his half-brother Michael Smidt, also played. Eller, from pictures and video, recalled that he was first in skates around the age of two years old.
“It was a challenge. I was walking on my skates at first,” Eller said. “And then, as I figured the balance out, you start gliding and you can start to really skate.”
The Danish forward played a variety of sports growing up, including soccer, golf and tennis. Around the time he was 13, Eller elected to stick with hockey, confident he could make a career of it.
From that point on, he worked his way up the ranks. He started off with the Rødovre U20 team in the Denmark U20 league, where he registered 21 goals and 47 points through 28 games. Eller then moved up to play J18 Allsvenskan and J20 SuperElit hockey with Frölunda HC. He excelled in his three years playing in J20 SuperElit with 77 points in 84 games (.92 PPG).
His hard work led him to the 2007 NHL Draft, where the St. Louis Blues selected him with the 13th overall pick. Around three years later, Eller would head to the Montreal Canadiens as part of the trade for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. He put up 71 goals and 154 points through 435 games with the Habs.
“Montreal was a great experience,” Eller said, adding, “All the history there and the hype around the team. It was special in its own way. I’m fortunate [to have played there].”
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Eller ultimately landed with the Capitals when he was dealt at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft for picks. It was a trade that secured significant depth down the middle for Washington and also presented Eller with a change of scenery that would help him find his game and ultimately, a place he could call home.
“I’ve been lucky to be part of a very good organization that really has a chance to compete every year,” And when you have something like that, it tends to be more fun when you’re winning a lot. It’s a little bit more laid-back here than Montreal… I like to be in D.C.”
Off the ice, the 32-year-old enjoys Italian food and watching “Billions,” as well as spending time with his family. On the ice, he plays a key role on the Capitals’ third — and sometimes second — line.
Through 356 games with Washington, the 32-year-old has recorded 67 goals and 161 points through 356 games, while becoming a fan favorite and vital part of the team’s secondary scoring. It was in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, though, that Eller permanently cemented his Capitals legacy.
In Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals were down 3-2 heading into the third. Devante Smith-Pelly evened the score about halfway through the final frame, and a few minutes later, Eller’s line would change everything in just one shift.
Andre Burakovsky got the puck over to Brett Connolly in the slot, where he fired a quick shot that made it somewhat past Marc-Andre Fleury. As Eller cycled around to the crease, he saw the rebound sitting all alone in the paint. He pounced on it and knocked the loose puck into the wide-open net to put Washington up 4-3 in the final minutes of regulation.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 8, 2018
“I had a pretty good feeling that we were [gonna win]… I just had a strong feeling we were gonna close this one out,” Eller said of the famous tally.
The score held, and Washington won its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Meanwhile, Eller would become the first Danish-born player to hoist the Cup.
“Just the whole, you know, all the wins in that playoff run and the celebration after and everything that came with it, it’s kind of one big memory for me,” Eller said. “Of course, the goal was special, and every time you look at the picture of that or see a clip of that, it brings a big smile to your face. It’s very special.”
The 32-year-old is now entering his sixth season with Washington and eyes another Stanley Cup title.